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USATSI

Absurdity forthcoming: Almost all MLB teams are already one-fourth of their way through the 2020 schedule. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic in tandem with ownership dawdling during negotiations on the structure of the season whittled down the docket to 60 games -- a drastic reduction from the usual 162. So even though it's been a zipper-quick path to the one-quarter mark, we're here whether we like it or not. 

As such, it's time to take stock of the season thus far by handing out report cards for each team. 

Some will be rewarded with ice cream and mussed hair. Others will be banished to their rooms without devices, dinner, hope, or quarter. To be sure, there's time to reverse or reinforce these current estimations, but -- this being the 2020 MLB season -- there's not as much time as you think. Also note that these grades are relative to each team's baseline. That is to say, a hypothetical .500 record for the Yankees would yield a different grade than a hypothetical .500 record for the Pirates. 

Assume the position, baseball squadrons. 


Grade: D- Only the Cardinals, who have played five games, have hit fewer home runs than the D-Backs thus far. Marquee free agent addition Madison Bumgarner has flashed diminished velocity and been a disaster in terms of run prevention.

Grade: B On the one hand, being above .500 and in playoff position is a good and laudable thing. On the other hand, you're the reigning division champs, and you're presently behind the Marlins in the standings.

Grade: A- The O's in 2019 were an embarrassment to the sport, but in 2020 they're .500-ish with a positive run differential. Whether or not that will continue -- it probably won't -- isn't really within the scope of this particular exercise. So welcome to the honor roll, Baltimore.

Grade: D I suppose you could argue for higher marks since team ownership has in essence demanded self-sabotage. Well, congratulations -- You got it. Not surprisingly, the pitching staff is in the discussion for "worst in the American League" dishonors, and somewhat surprisingly the offense also hasn't produced.

Grade: A The rotation was expected to be a question mark in 2020, but thus far it's mostly been excellent. Willson Contreras is looking like an MVP candidate in the early going. David Ross has proved a tactically capable skipper thus far and welcome change in approach from Joe Maddon.

Grade: B The ChiSox invested significantly to surround their impressive young core with veteran talent, which means contention is the goal in 2020. Thus far, they've achieved that goal.

Grade: C- Kudos to the Reds for being one of the rare teams to operate in good faith over the past two offseasons. They've invested in the product on the field, and that's sadly a point of distinction these days. At present, though, they've yet to hit their stride.

Grade: B While being percentage points behind the Tigers in the AL Central standings does not number among current baseball best practices, the Indians are above .500 and have a strong run differential. The rotation has been absolutely dominant so far.

Grade: A+ Here we have the most pleasant surprise of the 2020 season thus far. They're coming off a 71-91 season in 2019, but right now they're atop the tough NL West and are in the mix for top seed in the NL. The denizens of Coors Field also boast a sub-3.00 team ERA.

Grade: A Detroit somehow managed to finish 67 games under .500 (!) last season. Accordingly, little was expected of them in 2020. At this checkpoint, however, they're above the waterline and in playoff position in the AL. No, that probably won't keep up, but in the here and now they've defied expectations in a big way.

Grade: D- From 2017-19, the Astros hoarded a total of 311 regular season wins. At this checkpoint in 2020, however, they're closer in the standings to the last place Mariners than they are the first place A's. Largely, pitching injuries and ineffectiveness have been to blame.

Grade: C The Royals were not expected to be good in 2020. Lo and also behold: The Royals are not good in 2020. Barely satisfying expectations is normally the stuff of a B- student, but KC gets dinged for being behind the Tigers in the AL Central standings.

Grade: F Despite a new manager and the addition of splash free agent Anthony Rendon (and the presence of, you know, Mike Trout), the Angels have endured a poor start to the 2020 season. The loss of Shohei Ohtani as a pitcher exacerbates already existing concerns about rotation depth, and the bullpen has been a 10-car pileup so far.

Grade: B The Dodgers remain an on-paper juggernaut, and they've played close to that level thus far. They've done so despite the severe early season struggles of reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. The grade may feel a bit low given L.A.'s current lofty win percentage, but we're taking out the red pen because they're behind the Rockies in the NL West standings.

Grade: A Despite roster churn and schedule upheavals brought about by a cluster of positive COVID tests, the Marlins have barged to an impressive start. There's ample cause to think they won't be able to keep this up, but the current reality is that the Marlins are in playoff position and have defied expectations for the better.

Grade: C- Most projection systems weren't necessarily enamored of the Brewers' hopes this season, but the reality is they're coming off consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the early 1980s. In that light, a sub-.500 start is a disappointment.

Grade: B+ The Bomba Squad 2.0 is still punishing the ball, and that's despite the slow start (and now IL stint) from free agent addition Josh Donaldson.

Grade: D+ Injuries, early dashed hopes, and the whiff of dysfunction? The 2020 Mets are indeed playing to type thus far. The middle and back of the rotation has been a particular disaster so far this season.

Grade: B The Yankees' offense has thus far been MLB's best, but the rotation behind Gerrit Cole has been something of a mess. The Yankees are in first place in the AL East, but they just dropped three of four to the Rays.

Grade: A+ They have the AL's best record at this writing and the largest division lead in baseball. By way of reminder, they share a division with the presumably mighty Astros.

Grade: C The offense has produced, but the bullpen has been a mess through 25 percent of the season. Overall, the Phillies are in the contending fray in the NL -- with an assist from the expanded playoff field -- and that's about what was expected from them. Being two games below .500 at this writing keeps them out of "B" territory.

Grade: D On the one hand, the Pirates were supposed to be bad in 2020, but this bad? Right now, the pitching staff ranks 28th in MLB in ERA, and the offense ranks dead last in OPS.

Grade: B+ Fernando Tatis Jr. is looking like the NL MVP thus far, and the Padres, who have endured nine straight losing seasons, are above .500 at the moment. In 2020, "above .500" is all it takes to put you squarely in the mix for a postseason berth.

Grade: B- Little was expected of the Giants this season, and they'll probably wind up providing us with little. At the one-quarter mark, though, they're within hailing distance of .500 despite having played a pretty tough schedule so far. The offense has been surprisingly competent.

Grade: C What kind of grade do you give a bad team that is indeed bad? You give that team a "C," it says here. The C grade for some is a symbol of squandered promise. For others -- Jeff Spicoli or the 2020 Mariners, for instance -- it indicates that worst-case scenarios have been avoided, as have outcomes of a higher quality. Yes, the Mariners are bad, but they told you they were going to be bad.

Grade: F- This one need not be complicated. The reigning NL Central champs are presently below .500 and thanks to a COVID cluster within the roster they've played just three games. Is there really such a thing as an "F-"? Buddy, in 2020 there is.

Grade: C+ Taking three of four from the Yankees lifts the boat a bit, but overall the Rays, coming off a 90- and then 96-win season, are .500 and behind the Orioles in the AL East standings.

Grade: B- The Rangers are below .500 with a negative run differential, but they're somewhat surprisingly ahead of two teams in the AL West standings. Low expectations? They hath been met, at least so far.

Grade: C- The Jays in some quarters were regarded as sleeper contenders for a back-door playoff berth, but right now they're not looking anything like that. Particularly disappointing has been Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s stalled development at the plate.

Grade: F The defending champs famously got off to a slow start last year, and they wound up winning both belt and title. This year, though, there's obviously much less margin for error. The Nats are testing those early limits. At the moment, they're in last place and on pace for the franchise's worst winning percentage since 1976, back when they were in Montreal.